Facebook Event Email Subject Optimization

Everyone loves being invited to a friend’s birthday party on Facebook. Recently, I was invited to my friend Jane’s birthday party. Here’s what the email looked like in my inbox:

FB event 1

What was really effective at getting me engaged was that my friend’s name Jane Smith was in the from field of the email. This way, it appeared that she, personally, had sent me the email.

Shortly thereafter, I saw another email arrive in my inbox. My friend had updated the original invitation:

FB event 2

Now, instead of being from my friend, the email was from Facebook. So when I first glanced at the email in my inbox, I had less urgency to see what it was about because it didn’t appear to be arriving directly from my friend. My guess is that Facebook has AB tested the original event creation email subject and found that replacing Facebook with the event creator’s name in the From field leads to greater engagement. As a next step, they can either AB test the same change for the event update email or simply implement the change.

Improvement to FB Friend Confirmation Email

Noticed something strange when someone confirmed my Facebook friend request. In the email that Facebook sent notifying me of the friend confirmation, Facebook suggests some people who are connected to this new friend who I may also be friends with.


This feature is useful and definitely makes sense given the context. However, when I click on the link of each user’s name, I am surprisingly not taken to that user’s profile page. However, I’m taken to a more generic page that has three modules: (1) open friend requests, (2) people I may know, and (3) a Search for Friends module.


This is really strange and an unexpected user experience. Ideally, I’d be taken to the user’s profile which I clicked on — and there I can decide if I know that person and follow up with a friend request.

Bug in Facebook Friends of Friend Navigation (iOS app)

Noticed a bug while looking through my friend Joseph’s list of friends on Facebook.

Here’s what I’m shown first when I go to browse his friends. As expected, I see his list of friends sorted alphabetically and I’m shown the friends at the top of that list.

After scrolling through the list, I encounter one of my other good friends Tom:

…and I click through to view his timeline:

When I’m done viewing his timeline, I touched the “friends of Joseph” menu item in the top left section of the page. As a user, my expectation was to be taken back to Joseph’s friend list at the exat spot where I originally selected – namely the T’s where Tom’s name exist. However, I am taken back to the top of the list:


Adding Social Share CTAs to ESPN Mobile Videos

Seems like everywhere you look these days, users are given an opportunity to share something via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Digg, StumbleUpon, and the list goes on an on. While it may be a bit overboard to offer sharing via so many different channels, offering sharing across Facebook and Twitter can be quite beneficial to a product.

One area where sharing would be a logical fit would be across content sites such as espn.com. On their mobile site, they have a video module that typically had 3 videos that can be selected to be viewed.



After clicking through, you are usually shown an ad and then the video.



When the video concludes, you are taken to a video center page that shows you what video you just watched and asks you if you want to watch any more videos.



At this point, this would be a GREAT opportunity for ESPN to offer the user the ability to share the video via Facebook or Twitter. This is no different than ESPN asking users to share articles via social channels. Except such a medium (video) may even have a more effective conversion rate of bringing new users back to the site.

Facebook is a Persistent Texter

Recently, I noticed an interesting text message alert from Facebook. The primary purpose of the text was to inform me that I had a pending friend request. In addition, the text issued a warning that since I hadn’t responded via text to Facebook recently, then I will stop getting text alerts.

Fair enough. It’s a reasonable explanation to turn off text alerts if the user is not interacting with the feature. But what was interesting for me was just how long would Facebook be willing to keep sending such text warnings before pulling the plug.


A couple of weeks came and went with no text alerts from Facebook. Amazingly, 25 days after the text above, I received another text from Facebook! This time, the warning was that since it had been 111 days since receiving my last text, Facebook may stop sending me text alerts.


So to make a long story short, Facebook is willing to wait at least 111 days before ceasing text messages. I find this to be an extremely long time. Especially since Facebook already gave me a warning at the 86 day point. Ideally, the algorithm that determines how long to continue sending texts to the user should not only be based on how many days it has been since last interaction, but also how many warnings the user decided to ignore.

FB iPhone App Bug: Search Doesn’t Remember What You Like

Noticed a strange bug when searching for a business page on the Facebook iPhone App. Even thought I had previously liked the business, the search results still displayed a hollowed out thumbs-up icon that indicates I have not yet liked the business. Here’s how to reproduce the bug.

1. Start with a Facebook Page you’ve already visited and liked. Search for this Page in the iPhone app:


2. Just in case you haven’t liked it yet, double check, and press down on the empty thumbs-up icon to like the page again:


3. Visit the page and confirm that you have liked the page:


4. Touch the top level menu to search again. Here you will see your previous search query correctly displayed in the liked state:


5. Then, clear out the search box:


6. Finally, search for the same page again. Now, you will see the page displayed again, but it is displayed incorrectly as if it is not in the liked state.


FB in iOS: Making Sharing More Prominent

Noticed a recent change in the latest FB iPhone App which was presumably done for the purpose of increasing user engagement with stories in the news feed. Before the change, here is how a sample story would look like:


As shown above, the Like, Comment, and Share calls to action are displayed as simple word links. In addition, the number of likes and comments for the story are shown in a similar treatment with the same amount of prominence and with the same color. 

With the most recent iOS FB app update, here is how this component looks like:

ImageSo what changed?

– The biggest change is the change of word links as the primary CTAs (call to action) to using buttons with icons as the primary CTAs. This is a very huge and radical change. One well-accepted best-practise of conversion for site/app flows is the usage of buttons instead of text links and another best-practise is the usage of icons instead of just words. Here, Facebook is adding two very important components: both the conversion of the word to a button, and the addition of the corresponding CTA icon.

– In terms of overall screen real estate, the primary CTAs are taking up more space. Also, the component that conveys the amount of likes and comments has increased in size. Instead of showing the amount of likes and comments next to their corresponding icons, they are now shown next to the words Likes and Comments.

Is this a good idea? Will this feature succeed?

On the surface level, this is certainly not one of those cases where one design is obviously better than the other. Rather, FB will just simply A/B test this feature and see which design yields a higher level of engagement. What’s interesting about this before and after is that the before had a more prominent display of how previous users had engaged with this story (i.e. the amount of likes and comments) and thus this would increase the probability of the current user wanting to get involved and like or comment. And in contrast, the new design is leaning more toward making the primary CTAs more prominent and more appealing-to-be-clicked instead of relying on the social pressure of the statistics of the story.

More on Facebook and the Challenge of Staying Cool

Earlier this week, I wrote a post on the increased usage of ads on Facebook and how they are contributing to the perception that Facebook is no longer cool. Seemingly on cue, Blake Ross, a director of product management at Facebook, has announced that he is leaving the company due to similar sentiments. 

Here is an excerpt from his Goodbye note as reported by TechCrunch:

I’m leaving because a Forbes writer asked his son’s best friend Todd if Facebook was still cool and the friend said no, and plus none of HIS friends think so either, even Leila who used to love it, and this journalism made me reconsider the long-term viability of the company.

While it was quite incidental that this news broke only a couple days after my blog post, it did get me thinking again about why I thought Facebook was losing it’s cool factor and what it could possibly do to regain it.

Was it just the increased usage of ads that contributed to this shift, or was there something more? In short, I believe the answer has to do with simplicity. In the early days of Facebook, the product was very simple — and specifically, the UX was quite simple. In fact, one could reasonably argue that what propelled them to leapfrog MySpace and become the only Social Network that mattered was directly related to the cleanliness and simplicity of Facebook and how much better that was than the mess and clutter of MySpace. These days, there are rumblings that Facebook is turning into MySpace. And the funny thing about such a proclamation is that it could be made both figuratively (it is the super power but it may be replaced one day soon) or literally (It used to be a clean and simple product but it is now messy and cluttered).

So what should Facebook do next? That’s the important question. It’s certainly easy for me to sit here on the outside and critique them. But the reason I critique them is because I think that they still have the potential to be cool, and more importantly, they still have the potential to achieve Mark Zuckerberg’s mission of making the world more open and connected. I’m going to continue to critique, but I’m also rooting for them to succeed long-term.

Facebook Ads and the Future of Facebook Staying Cool

Recently, I had some less than ideal user experiences with respect to ads when using Facebook – both in the web flow as well as on the iPhone. Around the same time, I read an article on TechCrunch about how video ads may be entering the Facebook landscape. This exposure to increased ads on Facebook and the prospect of seeing an even more prominent role for ads in Facebook got me thinking about the future of Facebook. 

First, let’s take a look at the ads I saw and why they bothered me. Starting with the iPhone, I saw the following: 


As you can see above, this is two ads for the exact same company spanning the entire iPhone screen (and yes, I do have an iPhone 5 – which is even longer!). When I first saw this, I was pretty annoyed. Why would Facebook be showing me ads for the same product in repeat? Upon closer look, I realized that one of the ads is for the Match site, and the other is for the Match app, but still — the same principle applies, the two ads are too alike to be shown in repeat to the user. 

Next, let’s move to the web flow and take a look at what I saw on Valentine’s Day. After signing in, here’s how my News Feed looked above the fold: 


I took a scan around the page, and to my horror, there was zero content on this page that was useful or interesting for me. The page is completely filled with ads. Let’s take a closer look — with added markup from me in order to highlight each and all of the ads: 



By my count, there are seven ads on this page, and zero original news stories that are interesting to me. That’s a pretty bad ratio. That’s 100% ads and 0% original content.

The day after I saw the page above, I saw this article on TechCrunch.  To summarize, the article speculates that some day soon, Facebook will have auto-play video ads in the News Feed. 

Suffice it to say that I was not pleased to read this article. My experience with ads on the Facebook iPhone app, the Facebook Web app, and the article speculating on video ads got me thinking about a quote from Mark Zuckerberg in the movie The Social Network

// start quote

Mark Zuckerberg: Cause TheFacebook is cool and if we start installing pop-ups for Mountain Dew it’s not gonna be cool…
Eduardo Saverin: Well I wasn’t thinking Mountain Dew, but at some point, and I’m talking as the business end of the company, the site…
Mark Zuckerberg: We don’t even know what it is yet. We don’t know what it is. We don’t know what it can be. We don’t what it will be. We know that it is cool. That is a priceless asset I’m not giving up.

// end quote

While it’s not known if Mark Zuckerberg actually said these words, this would be a plausible thing for him to have said at the time. Moreover, he has been on record multiple times explicitly prioritizing product and user experience over profits. 

So the important question is: how cool is Facebook today, and will it continue to stay that cool in the eyes of its users with the addition of more ads? For this user, at least, I wish the Facebook of 2013 (and the future) would be a little more like how it used to be — and that would be really cool. 




An Enhancement to LinkedIn Connections of a Connection Pagination

I was browsing through the connections of one of my own connections on LinkedIn. In other words, this is the equivalent of going through a friend’s list of friends on Facebook. 

Here’s what I saw. I’ve blacked out the profiles that take up most of the screenshot, but the key part to observe is the numerical pagination at the bottom of the screen:


What struck me about this design is that the pagination is not very intuitive. How on earth do I know what page 4 has, and what page 34 has? The whole purpose of including these various options for the user is to make it easier for the user to find what they are looking for. In this case, I would be much better served if there were links to alphabetical letters representing the different last names of my colleague’s connections. That would be an entirely more intuitive approach. 

Going back to the analogy of comparing this to Facebook friends of friends. That page is currently designed by using progressive loading of the page that eventually loads all of the friends of my friend. LinkedIn can use a similar approach (which they already do in their newer People You May Know page) or they can use alphabetical pagination for a more user friendly experience.